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Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines

by on July 26, 2012
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A fun, airy, engaging documentary about female superheroes, “Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines” is Saturday-afternoon documentary material, and I mean that in the best possible way.

“Women” tells the story of not just the girl-centric comic-book characters, but also strong women in the movies and television as well. Of course, Wonder Woman in all of her various forms, from newsprint to celluloid, is front and center, hailed as the original female superhero and feminist icon.

But as art imitates life, so, too, does the comic-book superhero. Wonder Woman, for instance, emerged during the days of World War II when women were needed to build and fly planes and supplies for the war and at home. When the war ended and the men came home, as the women were pushed back into the kitchen, so, too, was Wonder Woman often relegated as a character to be subservient to men before finally re-emerging to assert her independence when the times dictated.

The presentation is strong, with director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan interjecting comic-book images in between the talking heads, which include luminaries like Gloria Steinem, Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner, as well as an array of historians and fans who discuss the characters, ranging from Wonder Woman to Charlie’s Angels to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in their cultural context. Many of them discuss how the characters served as role models for them as children and shaped the way they view the world.

“Wonder Women” is a fun, fascinating documentary, a low-impact workout that doesn’t get too incendiary or dense but still holds an in-depth discussion. It’s the perfect film for parents to show their children as a fun history lesson, providing fun, fascinating insights into pop-culture characters, giving them life and meaning beyond the medium they inhabit.